Campeche – the Mexican state on the Yucatán Peninsula overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. One of its positives is that it not only offers tour opportunities and off-the-beaten-path explorations for visitors staying awhile, but also for cruise passengers just stopping for the day, who can get a good overview of the region.
The state brims with two UNESCO heritage sites, white sandy beaches, Mayan ruins surrounded by jungle, mangrove forests, an historic Spanish fort, cobblestone colonial streets lined with traditional shops, romantic restaurants and nightlife. Its attractions located within a relatively small radius surrounding the port area offers options for a diverse range of shore excursions for cruisers short on time as well as for those staying longer.
The walled city of San Francisco de Campeche is Mexico’s only fortified city and was founded in 1517 by Spanish conquistadors. Located on the Bay of Campeche, you can explore the city walls and fortifications built to protect it from pirates, or walk its charming and historic old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Attractions include Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, a baroque building with neoclassic features designated a cathedral by Pope Leo XIII in 1895; the Land Gate used to enter the city walls; 59th street, offering a variety of shops and restaurants; and art and archaeological, architectural, cultural and naval museums.
For golfers, nearby courses include Campeche Country Club’s 18-hole course and marina. Leisure travelers can take a dip with beach excursions here or at nearby Playa Bonita, Tucán Siho Beach, or Akbal Resort. Food-lovers can experience a mix of Mayan, Spanish and Caribbean flavors in local cafes and restaurants throughout the region, with a tasting excursion an easy option.
The city’s surroundings also offer opportunities for discovery and exploration, including Edzna, the region’s most important archaeological site. First settled around 600 BC and located in the state’s northern region, this Mayan city flourished during the Classic period and was once home to as many as 25,000 Maya.
For nature lovers and kayak enthusiasts, Campeche is home to Los Petenes, an ecological reserve of mangroves similar to Florida’s Everglades.
The state also offers one of the largest protected areas in Mexico: Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, a mixed natural and cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Home to the Mayan archaeological site of Calakmul and its massive pyramid and temple complex, visitors can also explore a variety of flora and fauna and spot jaguars, ocelots, pumas, spider monkeys, toucans and parrots.
Exploration and exhilarating adventure is also an option at Miguel Colorado, ideal for kayaking and trekking. where a zip line flies 260 feet over the site’s 820-feet wide water-filled sinkhole, called a cenote around here. There are many beautiful cenotes in the area, with clear water to swim in.
Campeche offers compelling seasonal events and festivals: In February, the streets of Campeche – home to Mexico’s oldest Carnival — flow with feathers, sequins and color. May offers the city’s International Jazz Festival, when musicians from across the globe play in venues throughout town.
Day of the Dead in late October and early November mixes ancient and modern traditions. Visitors and locals alike revel in music, culture and other offerings during December’s Historic Quarter Festival.